Garden and Gun

Tad Lauritzen Wright - Upon the Hill
Acrylic collage, spray paint on canvas - 60" x 48" - 2012 - courtesy of the artist

Tad Lauritzen Wright
David Lusk Gallery
Memphis, TN
October 2-27, 2012

Tad Lauritzen Wright - Forgetting Where I'm From
Mixed media on canvas – 40″ x 30″ – 2012 – courtesy of the artist

Under the guise of magazine Garden and Gun, Tad Lauritzen Wright’s new work was self-labeled “new casual” which is translated into art terms as intentionally lazy. In proper terms, new casual is exposure of mistakes and embracement of the spontaneous. Luckily, his attempts to be sloppy did not succeed, but the paintings did. A strong sense of great care and awareness is present in everything from gloppy gold paint used for deer antlers to googly eyes as plant delineation and decoration. For Lauritzen Wright, new casual meant creative play.

In his characteristic casual humor, Wright transforms the motifs of the popular magazine while elevating its themes to art simply by isolating them and subsequently exalting the initially banal scenes to canvas. Signaturely graphic, illustrative, and cartoonish, this show is in some ways no departure for Lauritzen Wright. Each painting features a single subject such as a bear, deer, cactus, horse, gun, or a simple motif of a neighborhood. The bear drips, the dear boasts golden antlers while fading into the background, the cactus is almost an animation, the horse a sloppy silhouette in full glitter, the gun a reductive centerpiece/centerfold display, and the neighborhood a depth-less grid of drippy neighbors.

The stylistic departure is in the drips, the loose abstraction of figures, and use of shiny materials. These material-based experiments distinguish the Garden and Gun paintings from previous word puzzles or line-driven drawings. These characters (even inanimate objects become characters in this work) are poppy without outline and alive through buildup of paint and use of color to delineate space without suggesting space.

One of the most captivating images is Upon the Hill, a depiction of a Turkey. The creature stares full-on at the viewer, unapologetically, with a dumbfounded, unintellectual, South Park-esque expression. It is constructed of quasi-symmetrical feathers – both yellow and red, visceral dots for body feather display, and a sculpted frosting-like neck. The face is bright reflective silver, gloppy and enticing while sloppy with loose pattern.

Tad Lauritzen Wright - Upon the Hill
Acrylic collage, spray paint on canvas – 60″ x 48″ – 2012 – courtesy of the artist

Much of the redemptive value of Lauritzen Wright’s new casualism is due to the paintings’ size. The smallest work is 10 inches by 8 inches. Most pieces secure a solid presence on the walls of David Lusk with sizes nearer 60 inches by 48 inches and the largest 66 inches by 96 inches. Had these pieces been 4 inches by 5 inches, the casual buildup of paint and loose drips would have read as lazy and cluttered. Oversized three-dimensional paint detail allowed the technical experiments in abrupt elegance to flourish.

Complimenting the show is Lauritzen Wright’s short hardcover Blurb catalogue. Among photos of a handful of paintings is the story of the show’s impetus – a trip to the dentist brought a copy of Garden and Gun to the artists’ hands, inspiring paintings of its contents. Soon the paintings’ subject matter departed from literal illustration of the magazine’s photos and articles to personal antidotes interlaced with the magazine’s motifs and stories to create its tagline “soul of the South” in visual form. Such progression is typical in successful bodies of artwork. Lauritzen Wright made the soul of the South his own with contemporary cultural stylistic references of new casualism (glitter, metallic paint, spray paint). While in reproduction the paintings scream new casual, sloppy and fast, the works in person are sculptural two-dimensional exploits of materials for a common theme.

The show runs from October 2-27 at David Lusk.

M. Foster is a graduate student in sculpture and art history at the University of Memphis.